It’s no surprise that the global pandemic has had a significant impact on employees’ mental health. But even before the pandemic, mental health was on many employers’ radars. According to the Global Business Group on Health Survey 2016-2019, mental well-being was one of the top three focus areas identified among all the global regions surveyed.
What does that mean in practice? A panel at this year’s Global Benefits in a Rapidly Changing World Virtual Conference—with Kembre Roberts, AVP, Lockton Dunning Benefits; Dr. Shealynn Buck, chief medical officer, Lockton Companies; and Nick Dobelbower, SVP, director, global benefits practice, Lockton Companies—discussed mental health strategies for global employers.
Lack of Access
In some countries, just getting access to care is an issue—especially now, when health care resources across the globe have been redistributed to tackle COVID-19. The stigma associated with mental health issues, particularly when coupled with cultural and religious norms, may also prevent people from seeking help when they need it. In fact, an international IPSOS study found that 82% of employees keep their mental health issues secret, out of fear that it will negatively impact their career.
This is particularly true for frontline workers, said Dr. Buck. Health care workers often have a “soldier mentality” since they are taught to put others first, so we need to give them permission and a forum to share, she explained.
When looking for resources, Roberts suggested that employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be a good starting point. She described how these programs are evolving from traditional models focused on self-directed tools and access to crisis counselling, to more comprehensive models with a more holistic approach, including virtual care.
Best Practices for Multinationals
While everyone’s mental health needs are different, the pandemic has created a shared experience around a stressor, which has helped alleviate some of the stigma of asking for help, explained Dr. Buck. As a result, many multinational organizations are now focusing on addressing stigma and facilitating access to care: getting the right care, at the right time, at the right price.
The sudden shift to working remotely has created some additional challenges. With the rapid onset of COVID-19, there wasn’t enough time to establish an infrastructure around remote work, noted Dobelbower. But now that we are a few months into the pandemic, the regulatory authorities are once again paying attention to the existing regulations.
For example, in France, any organization with more than 1,000 employees needs to have a policy on managing the mental well-being and stress reduction of its employees, he added. And in Mexico, employers are required to survey their employees on psychosocial risk factors, and then develop an action plan and resources to address those factors.
[Upcoming Webcast: Rising Substance Abuse: Supporting Employees in Changing Work Environments | September 3, 2020]
Next Steps for Employers
In the near term, employers will need to focus on developing and maintaining an infrastructure around remote work, explained Dobelbower. This could involve amending employment contracts, clarifying expectations for employees, extending the existing focus on occupational health and safety to workplace stress, and ensuring employee representatives are appropriately consulted during the process.
Clearly, we are facing some significant ongoing challenges from a mental health standpoint. But the current health crisis may also provide opportunity, said Buck, adding there’s no better time to think about how we can do things differently.
Learn More About Global Benefit Strategies
The Global Benefits in a Rapidly Changing World Virtual Conference was held live on August 6 and is available to view on-demand. Tune in to hear sessions on the global economic outlook, global mobility challenges in a COVID-19 world, business travel during COVID-19 and more!
[Save the Date! CONNECT Global Benefits Summit will be held June 7-9, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. We are now accepting session proposals for the event. Submit your proposal here.]
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